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December 6: Mark Otty has been nominated as the next UK chairman of Ernst & Young. If all goes to plan, he will take over from Nick Land next July. At 41, Otty is the younger of the two candidates (the other was Jock Lennox, who is 49). He is a managing partner in the London office and has extensive tax experience (he is also a long-distance runner, I gather). Barney Jopson wrote a splendid piece two months ago about the rather Junior Common Room-style hustings that the candidates are subjected to.
The Office of Fair Trading is referring HMV’s planned acquisition of Ottakar’s bookshop chain to the Competition Commission. At one point today Ottakar’s shares were off 18 per cent. The deal would bring Ottakar’s together with HMV’s Waterstones chain. The OFT was inundated with responses (from the public as well as from precious authors and publishers who think their inefficient industry deserves special treatment). Oddly, though, the OFT appears to be concerned less about the effect the deal would have on prices than what it might do to variety on the high street.
ITV has finally agreed its deal to buy Friends Reunited, the website which brings playground chums back together. The initial price is £120m but could be £50m higher if certain performance targets are met. Read details of the deal here. ITV still has much explaining to do here. We’re talking to Charles Allen, the group’s chief executive, and will tell you what he says tomorrow.
HBOS says it plans to wipe out its £1.8bn pension fund deficit over the next decade through increased annual contributions. We are planning lots on pensions for tomorrow. The shares are up almost 5 per cent after the bank issued a strong trading update and said it would buy back £750m of stock next year.
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